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Applying for a Tourist Visa to the USA

September 29th, 2011

I have had a few emails from readers asking how hard it is for a Costa Rica citizen to get a US tourist. Spouses of North Americans are specifically concerned with this.

A Costa Rica citizen applying for a tourist visa to the USA may find the road a bit difficult.  My wife just received hers last Monday.  The US is a tad nutsy over the possibility that they will issue a visa to someone who then never leaves the US after their visa expires. Can you imagine that!?

If he/she has no serious ties here (family does not count) assets, land ownership, long term employment… especially professional… etc, it can be a difficult and expensive process. Being married to a North American is no slam dunk either. It is not uncommon the split a family, offering a visa to a parent but denying one for the kids. Ever wonder why the USA is not always popular?  I guess they have a job to do, but it strikes me as a bit harsh at times.

OK… The process (easiest) is to go online to https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/

The applicant will fill out the application form.  It is the form from hell… maybe 20-30 pages long and requires a ton of detailed info regarding the person’s family all prior visits to the US, etc..

CRITICAL:  SAVE YOUR WORK regularly.  There are options to save the form as each page is completed.  DO THIS… and save a copy on your computer.  It would be a stinker to start from scratch.

Some of the questions are pretty funny… like they ask an applicant if he is a terrorist.  Wonder how that works out for real terrorists seeking visas… Probably they answer “no”, huh?

Once complete, the applicant will need a digital photo that meets the state department requirements for size, quality etc. It is then uploaded and the application is complete and submitted.  Then, you will get a very high quality .PDF copy that embeds the applicant’s photo. Print a couple of copies. Need ’em later.

Then, you will go to Banco Nacional (I did it online) and make an appointment.  You pay for this privilege… $14.00. Once paid, you get a toll free number and a PIN.  You then call for the appointment.  My wife’s was for about ten days after she made the call.

You will now need to pay another $140.00 (I think she used Banco de Costa Rica) and save the receipt.

Day of appointment… arrive 45-60 minutes earlier than they tell you to.   MAKE 1000% sure you have every supporting document.  Take the CR cedula. They leave that off the list.

First… enter main application review line.

Next, submit documents at one of the windows

Next, get fingerprinted at a second window

Next, await in another line for the interview at a third window.  I went with her and turns out that was a good idea. They asked me if my wife would ever want to live there or get citizenship.  Pretty funny… in my wife’s opinion, (and interestingly in MANY Tico’s opinions), the US exists only for shopping

So… If the person passes the interview, they get in the DHL line and arrange delivery of her visa (another 3000 colones).

That’s it.

Total Time: 3.5 hours beginning to end… excluding the enormous time spent on the application.